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Words and ThoughtsSubsentences, Ellipsis, and the Philosophy of Language$
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Robert Stainton

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199250387

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199250387.001.0001

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Semantic Ellipsis

Semantic Ellipsis

Chapter:
(p.80) 5 Semantic Ellipsis
Source:
Words and Thoughts
Author(s):

Robert J. Stainton (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199250387.003.0005

This chapter looks at semantic ellipsis: expressions that are not syntactically sentential, but nevertheless have characters that yield propositional contents given a context. Relevant examples include ‘Attention!’ and ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’. The idea is to use such cases to explain away apparently sub-sentential speech: an attempt is made to assimilate the cases under discussion (like ‘Nice dress’ and ‘On the stoop’) to commands such as ‘Attention!’. This attempted assimilation is rejected on two fronts. First, it would require that human languages contain masses of semantically elliptical sentences. Second, postulating these masses of elliptical sentences would introduce lots of new ambiguities — which would be otiose, since a language that lacked such ambiguities would be used in just the ways we actually observe.

Keywords:   expressions, sub-sentential speech, assimilation, elliptical sentence, semantics

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